Burning through cash for zero output

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Neelam Tewar is the founder of Maven Magpie Consulting; she is a published poet, a two-time TEDx speaker, business strategist, and an educator to impact-driven corporations and conscious entrepreneurs, creators, and High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs) globally.

Biggest fuckup?

Everything was going well, nay it was going way better than expected since I started my business. New clients with recurring projects, which meant steady revenue and the lifeblood of all things necessary to keep my business in the green: cashflow.

I saw the moolah coming in and thought to myself this is the right time to start building a team. I identified two areas I needed to amp up: lead gen (including offer creation) and content. I was right about the areas but in an entire galaxy of wrong with the ‘who.’

The two people I hired were not involved in the tactical side, i.e., posting on social media or actual sales outreach. But this was what I needed, not mentorship. I found myself in my meetings going over high-level strategy with them with zero output on the implementation front. Even to this day, as I write this, I think, “What did I cough up all that dough for?” 

The problem was I could see it. I was uneasy every month that cash left my bank account ($3,500). I identified the problem within about two weeks of hiring both individuals. But I couldn’t get myself to have a conversation with each of them immediately, and honestly, I could have—I wasn’t beholden to any contract and could have paused or completely backed off.  

It took me about six months to address each of them with my decision when I had burned through a lot of cash that could have gone elsewhere in my business, and because their work had hardly had any impact, I felt no difference was made after they left. Imagine that feeling!

But on a personal front, I felt cheated, hurt, and maybe also lost a bit of faith in humanity because I really thought they’d offer to stay till there were results. I know I would have. And the sad part is they never checked in to see how the business (or I) was doing – nothing. One of them, in their follow-ups (to see if I was ready to renew), wrote me with a picture of an apartment they were thinking of renting and said, ‘you’ll help pay for this.’

I re-lived that entire 8 months of working and knowing them so viscerally, and because I didn’t know where to start, I never graced that note with a reply. They wouldn’t understand anyway.

Listen, we all have something to learn from our biggest mistakes, especially when we run our own show, and for me, it was to act with immediacy once I see an issue. When I was in the corporate world, I had a boss who did just that, and he was judicious in both positive and negative feedback. He never waited either, and I thought it was odd, but I respect that now and have made it part of my M.O. and trust my gut while continuing to be fair.

While I lost cash which I didn’t really have, that experience taught me who I never want to be. Even if it means not hitting revenue targets or my bank account screams at me daily for months, I will manage. I will find a way, but I will never inflict what I went through upon my clients. Ever.

Rant

In the service-based industry, there are very few people who are truly invested in your growth. Few have the skills to back what they sell or to stick it out with you till you get results from the investment you made.

I wish more service providers would look at both the bottom line and the service they are providing. They have to define and prioritize solid outcomes for their clients. Most consultants or entrepreneurs do not need more clients, more visibility, or branding but definitely need to perfect how they serve their current clients, make fixes, and then scale.

Focus on a kickass and exceptional experience for the people who signed up to work with you or bought your product, the rest takes care of itself.

Useful advice

  1. Learn to stop. Don’t talk to anyone for a day or a few days if that’s what you need. Back off as much as you can, so you can look at your business objectively. Work through every detail that is bothering you, and bring out the dirty laundry (for your eyes only). Like, for real. No sugarcoating shit. Say it like it is but don’t beat yourself up.

    What must happen next is to come up with a step-by-step plan of what needs to stay and what needs to be eliminated right away. Start implementing it, don’t wait till the morning, and definitely, do NOT care about what someone is going to think about you. If nothing changes after you make the changes, go at it again.
  2. It’s said, ‘hire before you are ready.’ No. Please do not listen to online gurus on this. Never hire before you are ready to, first from a financial perspective and second, from an energy perspective, i.e., you have time to dedicate and monitor your hire to course correct where needed or completely do away with them. Sometimes being a solopreneur is a benefit. My tip is to hire for a trial period before signing a long-term contract and clearly define what needs to be achieved for a contract renewal.
  3. Research the people you are going to hire. Study their socials like a hawk, sign up for their newsletters (if they have one), and watch them for a few months before getting on a call. Not everyone has the ethical disposition not to pitch you, even if they are not the right person for your business. Sometimes you are simply the bottom line or a lifeline to keeping their business alive.
  4. You will save yourself a whole deal of grief if you learn early that what you do for your clients isn’t what others would do for you. Look for people who are aligned with your values first, and then check for skills, especially if you plan on hiring them. This is applicable to both business and personal relationships.

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